In an interview with Aftonbladet, Christer Björkman has spoken about the schlager stars failing in Melodifestivalen. As a result of that, he has said that schlager is, for now, a dead genre there.
When he took charge in Melodifestivalen in 2002, schlager was a dominant genre. Songs like Vem É Dé Du Vill Ha by veterans Elisabeth Andreassen, Kikki Danielsson and Lotta Engberg (as Kikki, Bettan & Lotta) scored, with this specific entry coming third in Björkman’s first year. As the contest evolved, schlager became less and less dominant, but still had its glory moments, mostly in 2004 when Lena Philippsson won ahead of Shirley Clamp and Petra Nielsen: A complete schlager top three. Or in 2006, when Eurovision veteran Carola once again took the Melodifestivalen crown. Or 2008, when Charlotte Perrelli emerged as the winner.
Even in recent years, schlager has not been quite gone yet: Alcazar came third in 2014 and both Magnus Carlsson and Hasse Andersson made the 2015 final, with Hasse finishing in fourth, after coming third in televoting. Schlager was far from dead, until 2016 – the year where Björkman has now pronounced the genre that is so connected to Sweden dead. To Aftonbladet, he said:
Since the contest has taken place [in its new form], this year is the final step where viewers said that they want a Melodifestivalen based around pop. And that’s fine.
Anna Book, Krista Siegfrids, After Dark and Linda Bengtzing: Just four examples of the schlager in Melodifestivalen 2016. And all of them are out, before Andra Chansen. Yes, Anna Book was disqualified, but out of the others? Linda and After Dark finished in dead last, Krista came fifth. All of these songs were in Swedish. Swedish also seems to be pretty much dead in Melodifestivalen: None of the finalists so far are in Swedish. Three of the Andra Chansen ones are: The three with rap in them. Taking out Krista (a rather new face to the Swedish market), Aftonbladet rightfully calls Melodifestivalen 2016 a veteran slaughter.
Björkman became more careful as the interview went on, claiming he still believed the right package could win Melodifestivalen, even if it’s schlager. He cited Hasse Andersson as an example. The 67 year old scored highly with Guld Och Gröna Skogar. But did he win? No.
Björkman also spoke about the songs by these so-called veterans this year, mainly about their choice of songs. About that he said:
It may simply be that the veterans this year have chosen the wrong song.
As a schlager fan, I’m a bit biased towards this statement. Who is the man responsible for choosing the entries taking part in Melodifestivalen? That’s Christer Björkman himself. Yes, there are invited artists who are free to do what they want (probably: Molly Sandén), but let’s say Linda Bengtzing and After Dark were invited to compete. Why, if Björkman does not believe in schlager, were they given a free pass? In the interview we did with Linda, she confirmed that she also sent another song to SVT – a duet. Why, if Killer Girl had, according to Björkman, no potential, was it still included? It was not the only Bengtzing song on offer. If he believes that the veterans – so that’s After Dark, Linda Bengtzing, Anna Book and let’s include Tommy, Uno & Patrik too – chose the wrong songs, then why did he put them in the shortlist in the first place? If you believe the songs by these artists are not good enough and would only bring a genre down and you still allow them to compete, you want the genre dead. It’s not something that ‘happens’.
Thinking about these words, you’d have to say that in 2016, the schlager veterans failed. Maybe they didn’t send in the right songs to do well, but if Björkman knew that from the start – why did he allow them to compete? Isn’t that just the murder of a genre? On the other hand, schlager has, by fans and by people backstage, often been pronounced dead and somehow there’s always the odd entry that comes through. Just think about Germany, where Ella Endlich was the schlager return after ten years. Maybe we won’t see schlager in Melodifestivalen 2017, but it’ll surely make a comeback in 2018.
Many thanks go out to Tristan Viel Mare for translating the Björkman statements.